Being prepared for a terrorist threat

21 March 2014 • 3 min reading time

What can be done to Urban environments that face terrorist threats? It is a hot topic at this moment. A subject which revolves around the European research programme TACTICS. By implementing a ‘system of systems’ of existing and additional provisions, the consortium partners intend to fight the hazard and limit the consequences thereof.

‘As soon as information for a potential terrorist threat is available, the police force and the Royal Netherlands Military Constabulary will have to deal with it as effectively as possible. This involves: threat prevention and elimination or reduction of the consequences’, says Sharon Prins from TNO.


‘In the Tactical Approach to Counter Terrorists in Cities programme (TACTICS), together with our ten partners, we develop a Threat Management Tool. This tool compiles all relevant information from live images of security cameras to the availability of human resources where the threat takes place.’

Contribution consortiumpartners

Each consortium partner (see text box) performs his role with his own knowledge and expertise. TNO for instance, is leading the way in the process of automatic human behaviour recognition. ‘If someone is making a video or film recordings, one would like to know if that person is engaged with an art project or examining the security system. If the software automatically detects the problem, then the operator will only need to scan a fraction of the total number of images’, says Prins.

Privacy by Design

That the operator only needs to scan a fraction of the total number of images, guarantees the privacy of citizens. This is the part of the principle of Privacy by Design which is applied within TACTICS. Another example on camera images is that people are blurred or blocked by default. Only if the person is possibly known to be involved in a terrorist attack, then its face will be displayed.

Prevention of tunnel vision

Based on a historical database and input of RAND Europe, TNO also developed a programme which monitors performance courses of action from the terrorist. ‘You will assume that he will not be carrying a serious type of bomb in his rucksack but would more likely transport it by car, boat or horse and cart. Compared to other people who operate on the basis of habits, the programme examines the possibilities of each type of threat, without any prejudice. This will help the user to expand its thinking and investigate more possible scenarios.’

Facial recognition

Another example of the versatility of TACTICS is facial recognition on the basis of biometric identifiers ̶ the input of the French company Safran Morpho. Prins: ‘This is a new innovative technology, regardless from whatever angle the camera takes a shot, at a distance or with or without any movement. If the operator notices a suspicious situation, he will employ the police force or a bomb expert. This is also a part which comes within the system and included in the research: which resources are close by, how to use them and when they are deployable. Finally, we have a team which focusses on the protection of privacy, another aspect of great importance in this research programme.’

Operating Threat management Tool

All information is brought together in the emergency centre where the service operator operates the Threat Management Tool. ‘Herein lies the strength of innovation by combining new provisions and new technology with which we actually raise the security of society’, explains Prins. ‘Security organisations can simultaneously and with the acquired knowledge, shape up their policy, enhance the company’s competitive ability and improve knowledge institutes of counterterrorism.’

’By combining new provisions and new technology with which we actually raise the security of society’

Want to know more about TACTIS-consortium?


The TACTICS-consortium has eleven branch locations, end-users and research establishments,

  • TNO (The Netherlands)
  • The Royal Military Constabulary (The Netherlands)
  • The National Police Board (The Netherlands)
  • Fraunhofer (Germany)
  • ISCA – International Security and Counter-terrorism Academy (Israel)
  • ITTI (Poland)
  • Peace Research Institute Oslo (Norway)
  • RAND Europe (United Kingdom)
  • Safran Morpho (France)
  • Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)
  • Universidad Politécnica de Valencia (Spain)
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